Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Prince Caspian the Movie misses the mark

From the moment its release date was announced, one of my daughters was counting the days until the movie Prince Caspian (the second of the Chronicles of Narnia series) came out. That it was opening the day before her 17th birthday made the anticipation that much more exciting.

Our whole family loves the Narnia Chronicles, and were quite pleased with the movie version of the first of the series, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." Though not perfect, it adequately captured the essence of the book, and thus brought to the society at large key elements of the Gospel.

After the success of the first movie, I had high hopes for Prince Caspian and its timely message. Prince Caspian takes place when the children from the first book return to Narnia a thousand years later, Narnia time. They discover that by this time the Narnia they knew - a land of talking beasts and other fanciful creatures, ruled by the Messiah-like lion, named Aslan - is now regarded as myth and fairy tale, except by a very few. The true Narnians live in hiding for fear of their lives. The rightful king, the boy Caspian, is secretly taught the Truth and eventually stumbles upon the Narnians. With the help of the four children from our world and Aslan, all is set right.

The state of affairs we encounter in Prince Caspian mirrors our own - a civilization that owes so much to the Scriptures, but regards it all as fanciful myth that only ignorant people believe. Very few people are left who take these stories seriously.

As my daughter kept abreast of the news about the movie, she tried to tell me that they had made some significant changes. I usually prefer not to know anything about a movie I have decided to see, so she kept the details to herself. I accept that movies adapt books in ways that I may or may not appreciate. Instead of hearing about this or that detail, I preferred to see it all in context upon watching it.

I was shocked to see that not only had they rearranged elements of the story, added some things, and left other things out - all of which is to be expected - they changed the essence of the story. Instead of portraying a time when the reality of Narnia had become regarded as myth, the supposed "extinction" of the old Narnians was due to oppression by the ruling class. Instead of being the spiritually relevant story that is so needed today, Prince Caspian has been transformed into yet another politically correct adventure movie. I don't recommend seeing it.

One of the things that make C.S. Lewis' writings as poignant as they are is that they effectively communicate God's truth within a society that has lost its spiritual moorings. As intellectuals redefined reality for the modern world, pushing it away from a biblical understanding of God and life, Lewis calls us back to the old stories.

The movie version of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe gave us hope that Lewis' legacy was being preserved for a new generation, that the biblical world view would at least be part of the contemporary discussion. The movie version of Prince Caspian, on the other hand, reminds us that Hollywood cannot be trusted with that legacy. While the movie may lead many to read Narnia who have never read it before, it will not have the impact it once had if it is filtered through the lens of the film. The old stories have been forgotten. Not only do people regard the Bible as myth, an ever increasing number of people are not even familiar with it. It never was Hollywood's responsibility to preserve the ancient stories of God. May God help us to preserve his legacy in our day.


Rachel Starr Thomson said...

I had so many issues with Prince Caspian the movie, but I knew there was something at the heart of the story that I was missing ... it's been so many years since I read the book. I knew it had to do with faith and the centrality of Aslan to the whole story. You hit the nail on the head!

Another thing--when I heard that they had made Caspian much older, I sort of shrugged and thought "whatever." I didn't realize how much Caspian's age really would change the story. I think what hit me is how much Lewis worked with that concept of "a little child shall lead them" and the necessity of childlike faith to lead us back to the truth. His heroes are children because he wrote for children, but they're also children because that's the message he wanted to give.

Thanks for a great post!

Eric Novak said...

Yes, I agree. Caspian totally missed the mark for me also. As I said in my post, my biggest problem was that Aslan was hardly in the film at all. Major disappointment there.

Eric Novak